Terri LeGrand Blog

Krawiec’s harmful bill demonstrates lack of understanding and empathy

July 27, 2020
by Terri LeGrand

As a mother, I can’t imagine the anguish of having my children taken from me. As an attorney, I represented children and families in termination of parental rights and child placement hearings. The standard for termination of parental rights is high, and rightly so. As a teaching parent in a group home, I worked closely with youth who’d been removed from their homes. For most of these children, the goal was reunification.

Substance use disorder is complex and requires access to trained counselors and a variety of services. North Carolina is battling an opioid crisis. People need safe, medically assisted treatment.

Instead of addressing substance use disorders and providing funding for treatment, my opponent did something else. My opponent, Joyce Krawiec, introduced and sponsored a bill that vilifies and punishes parents and expectant parents. Her bill would potentially remove a child from their parents within a month. Her priority was a bill that could allow the permanent termination of parental rights after nine months. This bill, HB 918, disproportionately impacts women of color and women with low incomes. That’s because they’re less likely to have access to treatment and healthcare.

Joyce Krawiec doesn’t care about the harm this bill could cause North Carolinians. She said it herself on the floor of the NC Senate.

Removing children from their parents causes catastrophic harm to the child. HB 918 would also undermine efforts of medical professionals to treat infant opioid withdrawal. Hospitals, like The UNC Children’s Hospital-Chapel Hill, incorporate mothers as part of treatment plans. Removing the mother can interfere with a newborn’s successful recovery from withdrawal.

HB 918 doesn’t give parents a chance to rehabilitate and recover. Instead it deters families from seeking the tools and resources they’ll need to recover. They’d be more afraid of retaliation, punishment, and the loss of parental rights. This fear could lead to continued substance use. HB 918 could weaponize a parent’s history of substance use, and treatment against parents. Prior treatment could be used as evidence to prove someone can’t fulfill the “parental responsibilities” of a parent. Being unable to fulfill “parental responsibilities” is a requirement for child removal.

Removing children from families because of exposure to drugs without providing assistance to parents to get better is irresponsible. Allowing the use of assistance to be considered as a reason to remove a child is sadistic. This bill lacks understanding and empathy. It uses a cruel and paternalistic approach to governing.

It’s time we change how we view addiction. Substance use disorder is a medical condition, a treatable illness. We continue to demonize substance abuse disorder as immoral and criminal, instead of displaying empathy and compassion for healing and recovery.

There are promising and effective approaches to holistically address the complex needs of families with substance use issues. Importantly, enhanced collaboration is needed among child welfare, substance abuse treatment, courts, and other systems in order to provide the kind of coordinated and comprehensive services children and their parents need.

When elected, I’ll listen to experts and study success stories from around the country to identify practical solutions. I’ll work with community stakeholders to implement changes. I promise to listen to your stories, your challenges, and your pain to fix what’s broken.